Breanna Stewart ‘in a good place’ after Achilles injury

8:31 PM ET


CloseMechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.

HARTFORD, Conn. — Breanna Stewart, the 2018 WNBA MVP who missed the past season because of a right Achilles tendon injury, is looking forward to testing herself against her alma mater, UConn, on Monday.

Stewart, a Seattle Storm forward, is part of the USA team that will play an exhibition game against the Huskies at XL Center (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2). Stewart was injured April 14, 2019, while competing for the Russian team Dynamo Kursk in the EuroLeague championship game.

That followed an incredible 2018 for Stewart in which she was MVP for the WNBA’s regular season and finals, which the Storm won. She was also the MVP for the FIBA Women’s World Cup, which the U.S. team won.

Stewart said her minutes will be limited on Monday, but she feels ready to go.

“I think the thing is just being confident,” Stewart said. “It’s not that I’m expecting to pick up right where I left off when I got injured because I was playing at a very high level. But also knowing what kind of player I am, I expect a lot from myself — no matter if I’ve played in nine months or not.”

Stewart said the hardest part of dealing with the injury was the first month or so because she was so frustrated. But her mindset changed once she focused on the rehabilitation process. She also commiserated with NBA star Kevin Durant, who suffered an Achilles tear during the NBA Finals in June.

“KD and I, we’ve talked a lot throughout this process,” Stewart said. “I’m, like, two months ahead of him, so I gave him some advice on what’s coming post-surgery. He reached out to me a couple months ago asking if I was doing certain exercises.

“Now, I feel like I’m in a good place. But when I was at seven months, they told me to go 70 percent on the court. For me, it’s like, ‘I don’t know what 70 percent is. I know 100, and I know zero.’ But it’s about listening to my body and not overdoing it.”

USA and Storm teammate Sue Bird said she knows Stewart will need some game action to gauge her progress, but she’s happy to see her back.

“She looks the way she did before. Now she needs to sharpen everything,” Bird said. “Sometimes the knives get a little dull when you haven’t played in a long time.”

Stewart and the other USA players spoke to the media early Sunday afternoon after a practice at the University of Hartford. That was before news broke about the deaths of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and several others in a helicopter accident in Los Angeles. Stewart later said Bryant messaged her soon after she came back to the United States from Europe after her injury.

“He was one of the first people who reached out to me after I ruptured my Achilles,” she said. “Just like, he was here for me, supporting me throughout the entire process. And whatever I needed, he would help me with. When I saw him throughout this year, he was just checking in, asking me how I was doing. It’s a huge shock to everyone. I don’t think anybody on this earth wants to believe it’s true.”

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